Thursday, July 1, 2010

Blodsband - Svunna Tiders Sägner (2010)

Those of you late to the train with Sweden's Blodsband should really head over to the band's MySpace page, where their demos and full-lengths are all available through free download links. Some might be discouraged by the delusive thinking that if something is being offered for free, it's probably not worth fetching, but this is truly an exception to the rule, because this is one of the finer 'bedroom' black metal projects I've heard from this scene, and not at all like the down trodden, depressive sound one might expect. Capturing the bleeding edge and glorious furor of previous releases like Urminnen and the full length debut Kamp och seger, this new record provides nearly an hour of escape into the woodlands, pride and history of Scandinavia.

Presentation is as expected, with a drum machine handling the beats and a lot of keyboard to provide an atmosphere, yet this is all delivered in a thrifty production against the seething walls of guitar and the punishing vocals that are more often than not performed as a death growl. There are some segues of tranquility to offset the generally fast paced, streaming guitar work and pained anguish of the rasped lyrics, but both sides of the coin offer a tasteful tribute to the vast forests, hillsides and distant memories of old Europa. Another standout element are the leads, as Blodsband manages to enhance its compositions through some rather swift, noodling sections that don't at all seem out of place like they might on many other, similar records.

Tracks of note here include "Ett lands förgörelse", with its incredible mix of enjoyable, ringing piano segments and extreme bursts of bewitching melody. Back and forth the band rides out a storm and a calm, and in fact if anything I'd say there were just too many good ideas in this. So too charges the thundering "Stillestånd och nederlag" and the cautionary "Folkungarnas uppror", the latter rising to a climax much like the traverse up a mountainside, the sun blazing through the clouds and melting the frost from your chin stubble. Additionally spacious and beautiful are "Nyköpings gästabud" and "Härskare över två rike". The lyrics are based around a 14th century Swedish text, but as I cannot understand them I guess this is up to our Swedish friends to decipher.

About the only complaint I can launch at Svunna Tiders Sägner would be that the drums spend too much time blasting, despite all the chaos and beauty at the band's fingertips. I realize that this is a drum machine, and I'm not even insisting that an acoustic drummer be needed, but a lot more dynamic shifting could work out well in the band's favor. The riffing consistency is extraordinary, and the buzzing bass and keyboard tones extremely well plotted to provide emotional elevation and caustic hatred, but the drums simply seem excessive, especially when the album is an hour long. That said, they at least sound decent with the mix, and a whole lot of effort has gone into this, there can be no doubts. Considering the album is free, I very much recommend you explore it if you are privy to epic, blasted melodic black metal and don't mind that the band will use machine gun drumming and a mix of guttural and tortured rasp vocals. This is the strongest work I've yet heard from Blodsband, and hopefully would make an impression on some labels if that is what is being sought.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10]

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